When God Shows Up Unexpectedly: A Devotional

When God Shows Up Unexpectedly: A Devotional

When we are in times of transition, it can be easy to fall into fear. Many of us do not like change. We would rather be settled and know the ground we stand on. We like our second year at the new company. Our junior year of school. Year two of our relationship. When our organization or project is fully funded. Many of us thrive when we feel we’re on a firm foundation, and we’re nervous when we are launching into the unknown. Yet many of us find ourselves at a crossroads and long for clarity about how to move forward.

In Matthew 14:22, we read about the disciples in transition as they launched across the Sea of Galilee once again, headed from one miracle with Jesus to another. They had learned that whenever Jesus showed up in a new town, He created a stir. His presence led to crowds ready to run him out of town, plead with him for healing, press to hear him teach, or follow Him in curiosity.

But things felt uncertain on the sea that day. The Sea of Galilee was not an unfamiliar place–some of them were fishermen, and all of them lived near the sea their entire lives. The feelings of difficulty didn’t come with the place, but from the circumstances. The last time they were on the sea together, a storm almost destroyed their ship, but Jesus was there to save them. But this time they were back on the Sea of Galilee, sailing late at night without Jesus. His absence meant that anything could happen. They found their peace in His presence. Without Him, they felt a little more uneasy about everything. They knew where they were going and where they were coming from. But they were in transition without the presence of the Lord.

And then they saw a figure walking across the lake. They became terrified, and their place of transition became a place of fear. A figure out on the water with no boat walking above the waves was not a pleasant sight–it looked like a ghost. They had every reason to be afraid. We can relate to their fear of the unexpected showing up in the midst of the unknown. 

Then Jesus called out to them, and they understood that what they were seeing was not a ghost. It was the Lord. In the space between the last and the next, God showed up for them in an unexpected way. Their place of uncertainty became a place of the miraculous.

Similarly, God is able to show up for us in unexpected ways when our circumstances change. It may look like we are alone as we move to new cities, start new jobs, or find new relationships. The water can seem unstable beneath us as it flows without clarity, especially when the night surrounds us. But if we remember that God is with us always and can meet us right where we are, we may find ourselves walking on the water with Jesus on the way to our destinations.

 

Jesus is the Light of the World

Jesus is the Light of the World

Below is an excerpt. For the full article purchase UrbanFaith Magazine December Quarter 2022

It’s December!  It’s that time of year when many people are either anxious or excited about the Christmas holiday season.  On the first day of December the countdown to Christmas day begins.  Some write Christmas lists while others plan holiday meals. Some begin shopping for the perfect gifts while others decorate their homes inside and out.  The brightest reminder of the upcoming holiday is the Grand Illumination of cities and towns around the world. Christmas lights accentuate buildings, houses, trees, ugly sweaters and more.  The world is filled with light.

Jesus is the Light of the World

 What’s the use of the sun – if the earth can’t feel the glow?

If it couldn’t make flowers grow?

It wouldn’t be a wonder – it wouldn’t be a miracle…

                        (‘Miracle’, Jonathan McReynolds & Mali Music)

 

Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas, the annual festival observed on December 25.  The Gospel according to Luke and Matthew chronicle this illuminating occasion.  The birth of Jesus was no ordinary birth; it was a miracle.  Jesus was no ordinary man; Jesus was and is the Christ.  Christ, which means ‘anointed,’ is a proper name, or title.  Jesus Christ is not a name; it is a faith statement. All who declare that Jesus is the Christ, believe and declare that Jesus is God’s anointed Savior. The Gospel according to John declares that Jesus is ‘the Word’ that became human and lived among us.

The song, Miracle, sung by Jonathan McReynolds & Mali Music, reminds me of the miraculous work of God through the son (s-o-n   not  s-u-n), who came so that we could not only see the light and truth, but also feel the light and be changed by the warmth of it.  What’s the use of the Son, if the world can’t feel the liberating power of the God’s love, and be renewed by it?  The miraculous birth of Christ would mean nothing if the seed of humanity didn’t turn toward it and mature to its fullest possibility.  I often wonder what the world would be like if all of humanity believed and declared that Jesus, the living Word of God, is the Christ.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.

(John 3:14a, NLT)

The birth of Christ was necessary because we, human beings, needed to restore our relationship with God.  Sin is often compared to darkness, and salvation compared to light.  When we say that Jesus is the light of the world, we acknowledge that Jesus was born and lived with us. Jesus took on the form of a human being, ‘fixed his tent,’ and became our tent-mate. Well, of course most of us aren’t living in tents these days. However, we do know what it means when family and friends come to our homes and spend time with us.  This is what Jesus did, so that we could physically see God’s power and God’s love for us.  God loved us even when we weren’t loving toward God.  That is unfailing love. When you think of buying and giving Christmas gifts this holiday season, remember Jesus, the greatest gift ever given.  When you are paying for the perfect gift that you have chosen for a loved one, remember Jesus is the perfect gift God offered to us.

Holiness: An Interview with Jackie Hill Perry

Holiness: An Interview with Jackie Hill Perry

Jackie Hill Perry is one of the most sought after speakers and poets in the country. Her passion for God and using her pen to serve Him led her to write her most recent book: Holier Than Thou: How God’s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him. UrbanFaith sat down to discuss the new book with her. The interview has been edited for clarity. More information on the book is below.

 

If God is holy, then He can’t sin. If God can’t sin, then He can’t sin against you. If He can’t sin against you, shouldn’t that make Him the most trustworthy being there is?

Bestselling author Jackie Hill Perry, in her much-anticipated follow-up to Gay Girl, Good God, helps us find the reason we don’t trust God—we misunderstand His holiness.

In Holier Than Thou, Jackie walks us through Scripture, shaking the dust off of “holy” as we’ve come to know it and revealing it for what it really is: good news. In these pages, we will see that God is not like us. He is different. He is holy. And that’s exactly what makes Him trustworthy. As it turns out, God being “holier than thou” is actually the best news in the world, and it’s the key to trusting Him.

Devotion: Life has a louder voice

Devotion: Life has a louder voice

Scripture Reference

Matthew 28:1-10 NLT

1 Early on Sunday morning,[a] as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”

Death has a sting, a pain that can linger and never leave the soul. The death of Jesus by crucifixion was not a glamorous thing to behold. It was painful, tormenting, heartbreaking and shattering of any form of hope for those who were present. As we read the journey He took, the imagery that plays in our minds reveals how difficult this moment of destiny was for Jesus and His disciples.

When He died, I can imagine a pain of finality that may have been felt by those who loved and cared for Him. Losing someone dear, someone you love and care for is not easy. Losing them to a painful death can be heartbreaking and it can create a traumatic scar that never leaves.

It was important for Jesus to rise up again because the only voice that is capable of shutting down the loud voice of death is life. When He rose on the third day, the powerful testimony of His resurrection was a reminder for believers all over the world to believe, and hope again.

Have you dealt with situations that seem final to you? Are you plagued with thoughts of feeling that life is not worth living? Do you sense or feel that you are at the end of your road? If your answer is yes to any of those questions, you need to fight to live. If you need help, you can get it.

Living and moving conscious of daily decisions that push you to choose better, act wiser, and try for the best takes courage and sometimes can be a battle of the will. However, life has a louder voice than death. The dead cannot breathe air or experience moments.

Do not allow the finality of circumstances, trials, or tribulations make you feel as though life is not fair or worth it. You matter, and your presence in this life, living and learning and growing allows you to make a greater impact than being dead and in the grave. Fight for your dreams, push yourself to achieve the best that you can in this lifetime and believe God to make your life worth living for, because it is.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for what you did for me through love, by sending Jesus Christ to die for me. I acknowledge the power of the cross and the reminder that you desire for me to live. Help me today to push myself to live life with joy as Jesus died for me to be filled with peace and joy. Teach me how to maximize my days, weeks and months with what matters, and show me how to use my time here on earth wisely. I desire to live a fulfilled life, and I trust you that you will show me how to.

 

In Jesus Name,

Amen

Holy Saturday-A Reflection

Yesterday, churches around the nation gathered in person and virtually to commemorate the death and murder of Jesus. What a way to die, executed with his boys nowhere around, with the exception of John who he left in the care of his mother. He died in front of his mother. All of these people who loved Jesus, whether at the cross or not, had to live with the fact that they are now living in the world with a dead Jesus. We know now, because of history, that this part is an ongoing story, but even this part has a finality to it. Death is like that. Death is part of the process of living this life, and grief is its own beast of a complicated companion that comes with doing life with someone. These people had to grieve Jesus. God, the Father, had to watch his Son die. God lost His Son. Can you imagine it?

Who were your ones? Who are the people you love and loved so deeply, that your history is now split between before this person and after this person? Did you cry? Do you still cry? How did the gift that is grief show up for you? I believe in our liturgical imaginations, we have created services for almost every other day of Holy Week to commemorate, except for Saturday, because we just don’t know how to sit in grief. Grief can be an all consuming force to deal with, but grief is the price we pay for love, and they were loved. Sunday will get here in its own time, but we should take a page out of the Jesus story in this way too. There’s a reason that grief makes the story.

Theologians will debate about what He’s doing during this time, and the possibility of Him snatching the keys of hell and the people that will rise with him. What we know is that the people left on this side of the river Jordan had to grieve. And that alone is the gift here. The gift is frankly permission to grieve, and to feel feelings. It’s an invitation to learn how to sit in our Satur….sadder-days. It’s an invitation to not run and rush through the grief, but to trust God to get in the grief with you, since God knows what it’s like to live with the loss too. May we all learn how to be still on sadder-days, and hold in tension that this ongoing story, just with the added character of grief.